Panera Bread Rolls Out Climate-Friendly Dinner Options

Lunch hotspot Panera Bread is adding dinner to the menu this summer. The sandwich chain is currently testing a menu featuring hearty meals available from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Jacksonville, Florida, and intends to test the “dinner-centric” menu in nine additional locations in Lexington, Kentucky beginning next month.

In a news release, Panera Bread also noted the company’s goal to continue to provide customers with healthy options for themselves and their children — including for dinner. “Panera’s craveable new dinner options are helping to meet guests demand to eliminate the trade-off between good for you and ease. Like all Panera menu items, all offerings are 100 percent clean with no artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors, or colors from artificial sources.”

The meals are still designed to be quick. Sara Burnett, the vice president of wellness and food policy for Panera, emphasized that the company is endeavoring to balance the ideals of fast and healthy for busy individuals and families. “People are often challenged by the dichotomy between convenience and quality,” she says. And the chain does not want its customers to “have to trade one for the other, especially dinner on the go.”

By sales, Panera is the tenth-largest chain in the United States. And dinnertime purchases provide, on average, about a quarter to a third of the company’s sales. According to Panera’s chief growth and strategy officer Dan Wegiel, customer feedback suggests that the light soups, salads, and sandwiches currently provided by Panera Bread make for a healthy, but unsatisfying dinner.

The new dinner options include more sizable and satisfying meals, including flatbread pizzas, bowls, and meatier sandwiches that still utilize popular Panera flavors. New vegetable sides have also been added.

One noteworthy addition is the Chipotle Chicken & Bacon Artisan Flatbread, featuring smoked pulled chicken, chopped bacon, garlic cream sauce, fresh mozzarella and fontina, red grape tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and the chain’s classic chipotle aioli.

With food production contributing up to a quarter of the world’s total carbon emissions, chicken is becoming an increasingly preferred protein option for restaurants and customers alike. When compared with plant-based foods, animal-based food production necessitates a much larger carbon footprint.

Beef production uses, on average, about 20 times the land that plants necessitate, and results in at least 20 times as many carbon emissions as the average plant. And cows, goats, and sheep alike emit the highly potent greenhouse gas, methane.

For concerned meat lovers, there is a more carbon-friendly option than beef. According to a study conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey examining the average daily eating habits of over 16,000 participants, chicken is a drastically better option than beef when it comes to carbon.

Of any type of meat, beef has the heaviest footprint, regardless of how it is cut. Chicken, in contrast, has one of the lightest footprints of animal proteins. Chickens are a surprisingly efficient source of protein, requiring far less fertilizer and land acreage.

Diego Rose, the lead author on the study and a researcher at Tulane University, stresses that every person needs to be proactive in combating climate change. “Climate change is such a dramatic problem,” he says. According to Rose, the only way to curb destructive increases in global warming is to curb the global beef, goat, and lamb consumption. “All sectors of society need to be involved.”

In another study using the U.S. Healthy Eating Index, Rose found that people who maintained a healthy diet typically have low carbon footprints. Plant-based diets consistently correlate with improved personal health and positive environmental effects.

Panera Bread does offer a plant-based menu for climate-conscious consumers. The menu includes sandwiches, bowls, soups, and a number of fresh smoothies. According to Noel White, the current president and CEO of Tyson Foods, plant-based and alternative protein menu items have been “experiencing double-digit growth.” Tyson Foods just added a plant-based brand to its product line.

Panera’s Wegiel maintains that the chain is looking toward the future. “We stepped back about a year ago ... to say, ‘Over the next five years, where are we going to grow? Where are we going to get most of our value creation?’”

In regards to growth, Panera Bread has already added to its menu options this year: the chain successfully expanded its breakfast menu with new egg wraps, bakery items, and a remodeled coffee program. Restaurants and fast food chains like Taco Bell have instituted similar menu updates to boost sales.

At present, the majority of Panera’s delivery orders occur around lunchtime. And the chain has rebuffed any suggested partnerships with third-party delivery services: Panera Bread handles all delivery needs itself. With new dinner options, the company may need to rethink its delivery strategy in order to accommodate an increase in evening orders.

This post is brought to you by Tyson Foods. To learn more, visit The Modern Chef Network.

Subway Not Chickening Out: Blasts 'Stunningly Flawed' DNA Test Calling Its Chicken Half Soy

How can you tell these tomatoes were sliced fresh today? ‘Cuz they're from Subway. 😄

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Mega fast food chain Subway has a bone to "peck" with CBC News and the broadcast company's recent report on its show "Marketplace." In late February, CBC published an investigation that revealed the DNA analysis of poultry across several fast food restaurants.

The results? While brands such as McDonald's and Wendy's scored about 85 and 89 percent chicken in their popular sandwich products, CBC stated the "Eat Fresh" icon's chicken is, well, only 50 percent chicken. The rest, they claimed, is soy. And alarmed Subway fans definitely said what the cluck in response to these findings.

Perhaps CBC shouldn't count their chickens before they hatch because Subway's is fighting back. The sandwich chain said the report was "false and misleading" in an email release. Two independent laboratories, one in Canada and one in the United States, found that Subway's Canadian chicken products only showed trace amounts of soy, contradicting the assertions made by the Canadian television show "Marketplace."

"The stunningly flawed test by 'Marketplace' is a tremendous disservice to our customers. The safety, quality, and integrity of our food is the foundation of our business. That's why we took extra caution to test and retest the chicken," Subway President and CEO Suzanne Greco said. "Our customers can have confidence in our food. The allegation that our chicken is only 50 percent chicken is 100 percent wrong."

Since the CBC test results went out, the restaurant group attempted to reach out to Marketplace and the lab that performed the test to ask about their methodology and process, but they did not receive further engagement besides receiving the results. After sending samples to Maxxam Analytics in Canada and Elisa Technologies, Inc., in Florida and discovering that those findings uncovered less than 1 percent of soy — "consistent with the low levels of soy protein that we add with the spices and marinade to keep the products moist and flavorful" — Subway is demanding an apology and retraction from CBC.

Still, CBC is standing by its report. Trent University Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory DNA researcher Matt Harnden tested six popular chicken sandwiches. In Subway's case, CBC "Marketplace" tested three samples from Subway, two from Subway's oven-roasted chicken and one from their chicken strips, which were then broken down into three smaller samples. All were individually tested, then tested again.

The results varied so greatly from the other sandwich brands that the lab tested 10 new Subway samples from multiple locations across Southern Ontario. The average results were 53.6 percent chicken DNA for the oven-roasted product and 42.8 percent for the chicken strips.

CBC posted all of its DNA data in a follow-up report, adding that only Subway had significant levels of plant DNA and that the brand declined to speak with "Marketplace" about the topic on camera. 

"DNA tests do not lie (especially when conducted multiple times), and anyone with access to a DNA laboratory could perform these tests," University of Guelph food scientist Benjamin Bohrer wrote.

The last thing Subway needs is another scandal after its rough comeback these last few years. In an effort to keep things fresh (and instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off), the chain posted an in-depth letter to its customers with links to DNA analyses, as well.

"Producing high-quality food for our customers is our highest priority. We've always known our chicken is 100-percent real chicken," the company said. Read More

Flying High: Fastest Growth in Chicken Concepts

Flying High: Fastest Growth in Chicken Concepts

Once upon a time, fast casual chicken restaurants were a dime a dozen- the packaging might have been different, but the tastes were largely the same. We talked to two trailblazing companies on their approach to chicken and what they're doing to set themselves apart from the competition.

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On Foodable Insight Series: How Do Fast Casual Phenoms Stand Out?

Fast casual is undisputedly the poster child of growth within the restaurant industry. Five years ago, the segment had barely begun to thrive, with only a handful of concepts making their names, but now more fast casual champions are entering the playing field. In fact, just two years ago, fast casual sales were reported to have skyrocketed 600 percent since 1999. With this rapid expansion and with the influx of concepts, why have consumers embraced this segment and how do operators stand out?

In this  "On Foodable Insight Series" episode, industry experts explore that while the segment was initially known to be dominated by better-burger ideas and craft pizza, there is a hatching success for concepts focused on the chicken sector. The consumer eats two times as much chicken as any other protein and has a reputation of being the healthier alternative after fish. It's no surprise that is a growing arena for fast casuals in order to meet the consumer demand. 

Sean Kennedy, president and CEO of Cowboy Chicken, said his brand sets itself apart because they do not fry their products. Their chicken is artisan, cooked naturally over a hickory wood-burning fire, and their service target time is four minutes from point-of-sale to delivery. Astonishing, but how much headroom improvement is left in the fast casual space?

"You know, I think there's a lot of room for innovation. I mean, now you have, you guys term it, Fast Casual 2.0, which is some chef-driven — still in the fast casual space — concept development. What we're seeing is more focused menus, we're seeing people really specializing in what they do. I really think there's a lot of room to grow with a lot of specialization out there, and I think the fast casual here to stay, and I definitely think that's where all the action is going to be the next 10, 15 years," Kennedy said.

From an ingredient standpoint in the chicken sector, Aaron Noveshen, founder of consulting group The Culinary Edge and soon-to-open concept Starbird, said his team focused not only on better-quality, but sustainability, making it a mission for the brand to be part of the environmental solution instead of the problem.

"Parents want to feed their kids a better product," Noveshen said. "It's clear that nurturing and understanding where these ingredients are from, that they're not going to harm yourself or your kids, is really an important part of that."  

McDonald’s Move to Bring Back Chicken Tenders Also to Bring Back Poultry Industry From Oversupply Funk

By Mae Velasco, Assistant Editor

Facebook page labeled "Bring Back McDonald's Chicken Selects"  |

Facebook page labeled "Bring Back McDonald's Chicken Selects" |

McDonald’s may have had jingles about lovin’ it, but poultry producers may be lovin’ McDonald’s right about now. The company’s decision to bring back chicken tenders, or “Chicken Selects," into its menu selection this March is generating a widely felt shift in the poultry industry.

There were concerns about an oversupply in the U.S. market and chicken-breast prices were dropping with the insufficient demand. But, it says a lot about McDonald’s power when a single one of its item can sway the entire meat industry. The mass demand from the company is predicted to boost chicken-breast prices throughout the summer. McDonald’s, the number one buyer of potatoes with Burger King at second, influence is evident across several markets, even though the company sales has been in a slump.

“Chicken Selects” were removed by the company in 2013 as an effort to simplify its offerings, but McDonald’s hopes consumers will welcome its return. Will you be lovin’ this  change in the poultry industry? Will this menu addition help with the brand's revamp?  Read More